As someone who has been on numerous cruises in Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera, and Northern and Southern Europe, I have some pieces of advice that you might not get from typical travelers or agents.
Cruise Tip #1: Pre-book your excursions.
Yes, you heard me right. Everything I’ve read says to not book excursions, or to book through local agents. Some agents say not to book excursions at all. I have been on 12 cruises. On 11 of them I pre-booked all of my excursions. On the twelfth cruise I did not and I regretted it. I always take the time to read everything available about the cruise such as reviews, print-out brochures, Google searches, etc. After researching I decide on one “big excursion.” For instance – While in Alaska I took a helicopter to a dog sled camp located ON a glacier. AWESOME TRIP! Then I book a couple of “low end” excursions, such as tours of the town. I try to make sure I don’t have too many exhausting excursions back to back.
Cruise Tip #2: Arrive early to the cruise terminal
Again, most travel agents say take your time. I disagree. I love getting to the cruise terminal early and watching the people depart from the previous cruise. Maybe it’s because I’m a people watcher. I don’t know. I also like watching the crew members get off for the much needed break (most only get one or two days off per month). I also like watching the crew paint the ship, wash the windows, and load the food in preparation for my vacation.
Cruise Tip #3: Skip the souvenirs and send relatives real postcards from every port – they will love them.
My Mom and Grandmother love getting my postcards, some coming as late as three months after a cruise. They love seeing the stamps and postmarks from different countries. They were far more precious to them than any souvenir. Handwritten letters and postcards are becoming a lost art.
expert tips #4: Send an email from every port at an Internet Cafe.
I created a “group friends and family” list on Yahoo. At every port I sent a brief description of the port, weather and how we were doing. It put friends and family at ease and in one case it became a lifesaver. During the London train bombings of 2006 I was in London. I was on a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge. The bombings occurred and there was no way to let my family know I was alright. I knew they were panicking. When I got to Bath, I slipped into an Internet cafe and in 2 minutes let everyone know I was safe.